No sooner does Congress finish reforming the federal tax code stripping it of many tax deductions than the same Congress sets about weighing it down with new special-interest deductions.
According to congressional records, 213 tax bills have been introduced in the Senate since the 1986 tax law was enacted. Nearly all of them would restore or add tax breaks. House members have been even more prolific, authoring 536 proposed tax measures.The list of tax provisions that House and Senate members want to add or restore generates a computer printout that stretches more than 60 feet. The proposals include lower capital-gains rates, deductions for state sales taxes, income averaging for farmers, lower tax rates for children with investment income, tax-deferred individual retirement accounts for everyone, interest deductions on loans used to buy light trucks and exemptions on certain pensions paid to football coaches.
No one would argue that there are problems with the new tax law. It is a vastly confusing code that has sparked frustration in taxpayers, accountants, and even IRS officials across the country.
Many of these problems will need to be fixed. But hauling in all of the old tax breaks and then tossing a few new ones on the pile isn't the solution.
In fact, it's probably too soon for any solution. In order to clearly determine what is wrong with the new tax code, we have to live with it for awhile. To rush in and hack away at the new code before we have fully figured out what it is is all about is foolhardy.
Such haste would only add to the confusion of the new tax law instead of repairing its flaws.
Congress needs to wait a year or two. Government watchers say few if any of the tax breaks are likely to pass in this era of high-budget deficits. Chairmen of tax-writing committees have said they oppose any major fiddling with the new law.
They are right. Let tax reform alone for the time being. Congress can better serve the country by directing its energies elsewhere until time has enabled us to bring the new tax law into focus.